By: 156th Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Keeping up dress and appearances during a crisis response is a difficult task. Relaxed standards, to a degree, are acceptable due to a lack of resources, the conditions on the frontlines or the nature of relief efforts. But what happens when you want to get a haircut and there is no place to get one?
Air Force Senior Airman Roberto Espada-Gali, an aircrew flight equipment technician from the 156th Operations Support Squadron, utilized his skills as a barber to benefit members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard by giving free haircuts to those who needed one. A self-taught barber, Espada-Gali has been cutting hair since he was 15 years old.
Due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, power throughout the island has been out since Sept. 20. Muniz Air National Guard base is operating off generators, so power and fuel to keep operations running are resources that need to be managed. Hair clippers only pull a minute amount of amperage, but power is pulled never the less.
“I knew I needed to get permission, so I asked the group commander if I could cut hair at work,” said Espada-Gali.
After receiving permission, Espada-Gali set up shop in a small office and began cutting hair for his fellow Guardsmen. Combined, he has provided free haircuts to more than 20 Airmen.
“There is no power and it’s impossible to find a barbershop,” said Senior Airman Andres Reyes, a loadmaster with the 198th Airlift Squadron who was waiting in line.
“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel for most of the guys to get a haircut,” he said, glad to have a small step in the return to normalcy.
Air Guardsmen throughout Puerto Rico have been affected by Maria’s destruction in one way or another and finding a barber shop is one obstacle – in a long line of obstacles – Airmen are overcoming as recovery operations continue.
“I wanted to help,” Espada-Gali said. “If they are happy, I am happy.”
The 156th Airlift Wing prides itself on being a family and taking care of each other. Although it’s a small piece of the recovery effort, getting a haircut and feeling like yourself can go a long way.
“If it raises morale and helps the Guardsmen…how could I say no?” said Col. Carlos Burges, 156th Operations Group Commander, as he walked away with a fresh haircut himself.
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